20 November 2014

Review: Cress - Marissa Meyer

The third book in the Lunar Chronicles was so, so good. I got so into this again, even though I hadn't read Scarlet in a really long time and could barely remember Thorne and Wolf. I am now completely desperate for Winter, which is going to be amazing, I can tell.

As always, Meyer has created a sophisticated plot brought beautifully to life with her easy to read writing style and impeccable description. If you thought Cinder and Scarlet, were well done, just wait til you read Cress.

Firstly, Cress is a wonderful character. She is totally cut off from the world and not quite normal, but she is a sweet and very clever girl. She does need to learn a few things, but as we go through the book you can see that she is learning. The character development with Cress and Thorne was lovely and I liked the way that they weaved into being the characters in the fairytales. I finally understood why Thorne is called Thorne, and I loved that Cress isn't actually her name, but it goes so well for the Rapunzel story (those of you who don't know, Rapunzel is named after the Rampion plant, and it's leaves and root are both edible). I thought that some of the development of other character was slightly lacking in terms of Cinder, Scarlet and Wolf. I still adore Iko, who doesn't?

The one thing that really struck me after reading this book was the example that these main characters set. These strong, clever and emotional female characters are amazing role models and the book delivers some great messages in always telling the truth, to fight for yourself and to have some self-belief.

It's nice to see some original Grimm fairytale elements coming through in this book. I won't ruin it for you, but the turn of events is brilliant and the link to the original story has been done flawlessly inside the context, giving magical elements a much more scientific and futuristic base. I mean, even the settings are pretty perfect.

I thought that the space/ desert setting was really cool and quite unexpected. I loved seeing how everything comes together towards the finale. Everything and everyone are so much more interlinked than I realised. This sets up for one heck of a finale, with a full-on war, and we get to see what happens with Winter. Has her fairytale come to pass yet I wonder? I personally think it has but it ended rather differently. Might she want the crown? I can see a way out, but it's going to be a rocky ride.

Wow is all in can say.


14 November 2014

Book Banter #7 - How Long Can You Leave A Series For?

I just started reading Cress (Lunar Chronicles 3), which is great so far, but the only problem is I can't remember most of what has happened! It must be well over a year, perhaps maybe two years, since I read Scarlet, and a few months before that I read Cinder. Scarlet must not have made a huge impression on me, because I completely forgot about Thorne and Wolf, and where exactly Cinder was at this time.

Thank God for recaps at the beginning of books. Usually I hate this, but this time I am really glad there have been enough references to past events that I can (sort of) remember what has already happened, and piece together the parts that just elude me.

So my question is, how long is too long to leave a series for? I guess it depends on your memory, and on how much you previously enjoyed that series. A year seems to be the accepted time frame by publishers, but I believe that most people's memories aren't quite that long. They remember the jist of the story, but not all of it. Details woven into the plot can be easily missed by those, like me, who can't remember a name or seemingly insignificant events.

Needless to say, I'll be trying not to wait so long between the next books.

13 November 2014

Review: Graduation Day - Joelle Charbonneau

Cia now fully remembers the tragic events of the testing and is plotting to take the process down however she can. Although she has survived through many trials, she needs to be completely certain of who she can trust. Her life, and the lives of countless rebels and future colony students, are at stake. She needs to be careful though, because everything is not quite how it seems.

I was expecting a straightforward end to this trilogy, with a simple scheme that would set everything right again, that would end the testing. After all, this is YA fiction, and sometimes it's not all that complex. However, our author has a few tricks up her sleeve. The book starts simply enough, with a clear path in which to end the suffering, but then you realise it won't be a easy as it seems, with so many allegiances, secrets and misconceptions. There are a couple of very interesting plot developments, most of which linger in the background and slowly come to their conclusion during the end of the book. This means that you get to work out all the good bits with Cia rather than ahead of her.

We see a  fair bit more of Zeen, Raffe and Tomas here, and it is nice to see them developing slightly. However, the largest differences are now seen outside of the main protagonists, with Will, Dr Barnes and the President way in front in terms of character development. Cia seems to have stopped growing and instead finds the need to now hang on to the girl she was before. Here trusting nature is revealed to be more of a strength than a weakness when she finally learns the correct balance.

A very good read overall and a satisfying conclusion, though slightly drawn out nearing the very end. This epilogue part could easily have been drawn out further into a short but instead has been explained away, which is a great shame.

Exciting and interesting, this series has some great world-building and there is some wonderful storytelling involved. It would definitely hold YA interest throughout, especially those who enjoyed The Hunger Games and Divergent.

11 November 2014

Top Ten Tuesday #25 - Places Books Have Made Me Want To Visit

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where I will be picking from their top tens and attempting to reveal what my thinking is behind these choices.

Places books have made me want to visit:

1. Oslo/ Norway
The Witches, by Roald Dahl was one of my favourite books to read growing up. I loved this strange country where witches lurked around every corner and the funny, fierce old woman who lived there. I have always wanted to visit it. Also, Northern Lights  was another favourite, and it made me want to go there to experience the Aurora Borealis, so I'm twice as hungry for it.

2. Rural France
Lansquenet Sous-Tannes. I'm not even sure if it's a real place, but it feels real to me. First mentioned in Chocolat by Joanne Harris, it then features throughout a few more of her books, including my favourite, Five Quarters of the Orange. Although I have been to France before, I want to have the incredible experience of eating in patisseries and chocolateries and meld it all with a market village life along the banks of a beautiful river with gypsies living along the banks and irritable old ladies settling in shops for a mug of chocolat chaud.

3. New Orleans
The Casquette Girls is something I read quite recently, and I really enjoyed it! I want to put a city to a name now and stroll around in the historic french quarter. I want to see voodoo shops and street celebrations and really take in the history and the eerieness of the place. Oh, and did I mention it's the setting for Disney's The Princess and the Frog?

4. Narnia
It's quite not as dangerous as the likes of Westeros and you don't get stuck there, unlike Neverland. No time passes when you're there, so you can go off an have an adventure, see some mermaids and a giant friendly lion and come back to your boring life again. Plus, there are so many magical entities that I would love to spend time with! Hell, once I wished I was a Dryad.

5. Madrid
It's not often I get funny notions of going to big cities, but Carlos Ruiz Zafon's novels truly take me to Madrid, and I would love to see it and experience life there. It sounds like a great holiday destination with a lot of history and it can get a bit creepy at times I am sure.

6. Ancient Europe, Greece and Rome
Any Ben Kane novel can take me to this point in time, as well as the excellent David Gemmel series, Troy. I'm not really one for danger, and this is rife with it, so perhaps I would lay low. I think it would be incredible to go back to this time and see how people did things then. I love the mythology of these times and I think we could learn a lot from the way these people lived.

7. Ingo
I wish I was away in Ingo... I really do. This beautiful but treacherous undersea world, thought up by Helen Dunmore,  is filled with merpeople, and I love the idea that you can become one, and that people are actually able to breathe underwater if Ingo wants you to.

8. The Bayou
Ok, this is not dissimilar to New Orleans, but instead of going to the city, I would want to see the Bayou in all its glory. This was inspired by Teardrop, which focuses much more on the power of water and the Bayou feels like an extension of this power, as it floats in the background only to become part of a main event later on.

9. Italy, Rome and Venice
This is derived from Dan Browns novels, Angels and Demons, and Inferno. I am pretty obsessed over history, and it really liked the way the mystery fits in with the actual stuff in real life. I have been to Rome and seen a few of the landmarks in the book. Let me say they are stunning and well worth going to see.

10. Neverwhere
Who wouldn't want to travel to Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, an alternate version of our London, where nothing is as it seems and some things have been taken pretty literally. Black Friars really does have Black Friars in it while The Angel, Islington is an angel named Islington. I need to read this book again.


10 November 2014

Film Mini Review: In Time


In a world where time is money, people live freely until they are 25, when a timer device begins ticking on their arm. They then have one year until their death. While some die young, with next to no time amounted and stuck in dead end jobs, other high flyers in better time zones can live for a hundred years, a thousand years, even a million. It all depends how successful you are, and where you were born. Some live by this law: for the few to live, many must die, but two young people are about to put a stop to that.

The Good:
  • An awesome idea of time being currency, set in a dystopian future.
  • Takes on a Bonnie and Clyde feel which is great, but also this all happens for the good of the people from impoverished time zones, which can also be compared to Robin Hood.
  • Olivia Wilde, Cillian Murphy, Alex Pettyfer, Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfriend star, and it's a really good watch.
  • Lots of action.
  • Makes you honestly question what you would do in such a situation.
  • Dystopia, yay!
The Bad:
  • I am not too keen on Justin Timberlake's acting abilities
  • More world development would have been good.
  • Some distances and time-frame didn't make sense when added up against the time on the protagonist's clocks. eg: When passing between multiple checkpoints.

A really good film and something I will be watching again. Suitable for fans of dystopia and action films, as well as sci-fi lovers and those who like a futuristic feel. Very entertaining.

9 November 2014

Review: Independent Study - Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing was only the beginning. Cia is once again forced to use all her wits as she enters University. Fist she sits the enttry exams, where the penalty for failing is redirection. Then life gets even harder as she is separated from those she trusts and  put through a horrific hazing system.

Here we see Cia develop all over again as she begins to piece together her testing experiences. Her nightmares and the recording she left herself are enough to give her a good sense of the awful things she has to face. People change during the testing, and she has no idea who to trust and who will be the same person they were before they entered the process. Cia is on her own, and with her memories slowly returning, she come to the conclusion that the testing has to end. This character never disappoints. Her trusting nature still makes her an easy target, but she is working on it. The plot device to allow her to forget her memories actually give an excuse to recap the last book throughout, whilst not giving a boring overview at the beginning.  This was great as too many books do this, and when you are reading one after the other, this can be really aggravating.

In this second book of the testing trilogy, we meet more characters, and more about the Government and the rebellion is revealed throughout. This has developed the plot very well, but unfortunately once again the supporting character have not been given the same treatment. While a few key classmates stick out in terms of the fact that they may have ulterior motives and that they have different beliefs to Cia, they do not come to the fore, and Cia remains the only character who truly has a lot of depth given to her.

However, I really enjoyed this book. The pace was as good as the first, and the plot is full of action, with no dull moments. The story definitely pulls you in straight away, and the idea has now taken a further step away from other YA dystopian fiction that may be similar. A great read.


8 November 2014

Review: The Testing - Joelle Charbonneau

Cia is a determined girl and a hard worker. Her goal is to be chosen for the testing and  to go to University like her father. She soon learns to be careful what you wish for when the testing takes a sinister turn, with failure meaning almost certain death. Cia soon has to use all of her knowledge to ensure her own safety. Her only clue as to how to survive is the advice her father gave before she left home: Trust no-one.

Another YA dystopian trilogy with a skewed Government and a horrific amount of danger involved. This book is similar to The Hunger Games in that young people are pitted against each other in a competition, but this one is far more precise. The playing field is more even and the tests are more sophisticated, the players are cleverer too, with much more room for trickery and tactics. yes, you have to try not to die, but it becomes apparent that the answer is to evaluate the competition carefully and fully utilise your skills.

Cia is a great character that you can really sympathise with. She is very smart, compassionate but slightly too trusting and slow to make decisions. She is emotional and understanding in the worst circumstances, and sometimes this makes you wonder if she will survive the process at all. Her journey is difficult, but seems natural as she slowly learns to be tougher, to listen to her instincts and to become less trusting. However, although Cia is great, there is much less character development in her supporting characters, such as Tomas and Will.

The main theme in the book is trust. Though there is romance involved, even that is affected by the tests and the secrets Cia has to keep. This book really makes you think about what you would do in these situations. Who would you trust? How much would you know? How would you cope with the pressure, the animosity, the danger? Would you even make it to the testing? The book also makes a comment about human nature as some candidates turn to manipulation and murder to succeed in these tests, thereby forcibly eliminating the competition. The question is, would you?

The Testing is very fast paced, with no boring parts and lots of interest. This is a great start to the trilogy and I am very intrigued as to what happens next, especially with the ending that has taken place.


6 November 2014

November Update

So as some of you may have noticed, I have recently skipped a couple of days of blogs. This is because my internet is down and I can barely get online. If I do, it takes up far too much of my time waiting for it to respond. This is time I really don't have.

Therefore, I am sorry to say that until this is fixed properly I will only be working on the blog on weekends. Hopefully this won't be too awful, but in the meantime I am going to only be reviewing the books I am reading and maybe making some Book Banter and Top Ten Tuesday posts. This might mean that I will be posting a couple of times a week instead of every day.

Bear with me! I am hoping that the issue is solved soon!

5 November 2014

Wednesday Wishlist #27 - Halloween Edition

Enjoy the creepfest!

The Fall - Bethany Griffin

Based on The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, this book follows the story of Madeleine Usher, who is cursed to die young and forever live in the haunted Usher home, which seems to have a life of its own. A psychological thriller which sounds incredibly creepy.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth - Carrie Ryan

Yay! Zombies! our main character is trapped inside a rigid world of rules, but one by one these rules fail her. People keep dying, and eventually she has to choose between her home and the one she loves. Is there a life for them outside the safe fences of the village?

The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness

Being able to hear other people's thoughts mixed in with a horrible secret and a thrilling chase where it is highly likely the bad guy knows what you're thinking. Wow, how will the protagonist get out of that? Or maybe they won't?


4 November 2014

Top Ten Tuesday #24 - Creepiest Books I've Read

1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The graveyard scene scared the hell out of me!

2. The Prince of Mist
A scary YA with clown ghosts and misty seas, courtesy of Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

3. The Midnight Palace
This YA by Carlos Ruiz Zafon contains a very ominous railways station and a vengeful ghost.

4. Goosebumps (the werewolf skin one)
Both the TV series and the books scared me, but this was by far the scariest one.

5. Dracula
This classic is a great read, though not as scary as it would have been originally. I blame scary films.

6. Frankenstein
A good read, but it's the idea of creating a living thing and the madness that consumed Frankenstein that actually makes this book scary. not the monster himself. Well, apart from the fact that he is made up of multiple dead people and is quite murderous.

7. Unwind
Again, the worst part about this was the idea of being unwound. Staying alive while bit by bit, pieces of your body are taken away from you, just because your body parts are worth more than you are. Just because you're not allowed to go on living.

8. The Angel's Game
This one was horrible because you never really knew what was going on or who to trust. Not quite scary, but scary enough. It had a few mind games, and of course it's another Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

9. Sleep Pale Sister
This creepy victorian style ghost story is courtesy of Joanne Harris, as is the next story. This one was really interesting and I loved the way the story dropped into place quite nicely.

10. The Evil Seed
This one is quite a thrilling, and chilling, vampire story, and it was really engrossing. Joanne Harris really knows how to write.


3 November 2014

Mini Review: Deathless - Catherynne M. Valente

Deathless is based on Russian folklore detailing the life of Marya Morevna, the wife of the Tsar of Life, Koschei. The story follows Marya as the protagonist, where as a child she waits for a bird to marry her, and through her challenges as she is abducted and taken to the Tsar's kingdom, where she is given difficult tasks by Baba Yaga, all the way through to the end of the war between life and death.

The Good:
  • The russian folklore ties in beautifully with the events preceeding the first world war, and if you know your history, you may find a few familiar faces there.
  • Strange magic and very dark, reminiscent of Grimm's tales rather than the cutesy things we see today.
  • A fairytale for adults which has a rather bittersweet ending, makes you want to read the original stories.
  • Stunning descriptions
  • Excellent characterisation of Marya, Koshei, Baba Yaga and a couple of Marya's demonic friends.
The Bad: 
  • I didn't invest in too many of the characters and did not like hte inclusion of Ivan, even if he was integral to the story
  • Confusing at times as the timeline jumps around during the beginning and end, not telling you where you are sometimes.
  • The end did get a little bit boring and nonsensical.
This is a nice book and a very interesting one, however, it was a little bit long and did drag slightly in places where there was next to no action. The whole story, while I liked the magical elements and the adult aspect of it, was dark and didn't capture me the way other dark fairytales have.


2 November 2014

Book Banter #6 - Choosing Which Book To Read

I believe that there are only five ways in which you can go about choosing a book. Although many may choose differently each time, I am one of those people who remain mostly in my last category, and only in the first due to blog pressure.

Which do you fit into? Or are you.. Divergent? (I could not resist!)

1. Orderly
This method involves reading books in the order that you buy them or borrow them. This makes it really easy to choose, specifically because you don't really have to. Perhaps you have an ounce of restraint and only buy one book at a time (I really don't), or perhaps you do this as a means to make it easy, like it's a stock rotation.

2. Lazily
Sometimes the lazy way is the best way: let someone else pick for you and save yourself the hassle. Plus, it makes it kind of exciting when you have no idea what you're reading next.. or is that just me? Maybe you get people to recommend book to you, or maybe you pushed the boat out and got people to answer a poll online. This is living on the edge.. I'm not sure if I could ever be ready to take this method on.

3. Randomly
Living way, way over the edge. Writing down all your books and making a bookish lucky dip, closing your eyes and pointing at the reading pile, blurb surfing books in shops. I just.. I can't.

4. Seasonally
Maybe you're the type of person who liked to read scary books in October, romance in February, thrillers in January and YA in spring. Perhaps it's a bit more simple than that and maybe you read books that are due to be released in the near future as movies, you know.. to judge them ahead of time. I try to do this.. but I just get too carried away by certain genres that I never have read a Christmas book in December, or a summer book on holiday.

5. Emotionally
This is me. I choose my books according to whatever takes my fancy as soon as I'm finished with the first one. Sometimes I am so into a series i read the lot in one go. Sometimes I will read book after book of fairytale retelling or YA dystopias, just  because I am in that kind of mood. I tend to get really into genres before switching to the next. At the moment, it's dystopia again!

Which type are you? Do you have any others to add?


1 November 2014

The Immortal Circus: Final Act - A.H. Kahler

The final book in the Immortal Circus trilogy sees Vivienne betrayed by those she cares about and cheated by Mab, the faerie queen of the winter court, into becoming the ringmaster of the circus. She is trapped, powerless despite the fact that she can destroy demons and is unable to calm the angry troupe. She still sees horrific visions, and every day gets closer to the future she has seen.

This whole series is one that I have not been able to put down, and the final book is no exception. I was so invested in the entire story and couldn't wait to see how it would all pan out, and this was definitely not a disappointment. There are a fair few unexpected elements, danger lurks around every corner and Mab continues to throw obstacles in Vivienne's way. We even see a glimpse of the Winter court! This ending was great, and it was the build up of tension that I really liked, which ran throughout the books and finally came to fruition here.

Th explanations given to certain plot points (notice I am trying hard not to give anything away), were very nicely reasoned out and everything actually made utter sense. I think my only issue was that at the end we didn't quite get all the 'hows' and 'whys', only what happens a long time later and the in-between is a blank. I would have liked some more explanation as to what happened with the courts and how certain characters lived and died.

There was some slight character development for Vivienne as she realises the truth and learns who she can trust. She also has to cope with a lot of varied emotions as well as the responsibility of looking after others, people she hardly knows. In the end she does exactly what she thinks is right, and it is kind of heart breaking.

Themes of love, betrayal, guilt and remorse run through this story right to the core, with a few disturbing truths and painful choices coming to light. I love the use of the faeries realms and the existence of the circus and really liked how much bigger the story got through every book.

This is a great read and is very satisfying despite lack of detail. It is a well-imagined readable series that I recommend for YA readers and lovers of fairy lore.

The Immortal Circus on Goodreads